The Top Five Centers in the 2013 PBA Draft

The 2013 PBA Draft is touted to be one of the best of all time, if not one of the tallest. That’s saying a lot, of course, since the 2012 Draft was pretty deep already. And, well, the 2011 Draft had a slew of former Gilas standouts, so that was a doozy, too. What makes this 2013 edition quite different, however, is that, again it has a particularly high ceiling, physically speaking.

That’s why focusing on the top centers of the 2013 Draft is such a critical thing. There is tremendous potential in any of these bigs to change a PBA franchise’s future. And it’s not just because of these guys’ collective size. That’s really significant, of course, but there are other factors at play here – will they fit the system of the team? Can they complement the other talents on the roster? Are they ready for the punishingly physical pro game?

Greg Slaughter is expected to be drafted #1 overall this year.
(image by Rogelio Amat)

In light of this, let us take a quick look at some of the most promising, or most ballyhooed, names in this crop of rookie hopefuls – the Top Five Centers in the 2013 PBA Draft.

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5. Isaac Holstein (West Virginia State University)
Holstein has been on the Fil-Am prospects radar (at least in the online forums) for several years now, and the general impression Pinoy hoop nuts have of the 6’9 West Virginia State standout is that he is… tall. Based on his current skill level, and his lukewarm production in the D-League, it seems he hasn’t been playing the game for a very long time -- perhaps late high school? One plus, however, is that he does one thing that can potentially up his market value, at least in terms of longevity. This is his ability to block shots. Based on, Holstein sent back upwards of 1.7 shots per game in his stint with Big Chill in the D-League. Based on all indications, Holstein might be this generation’s Rob Reyes – a big guy who specializes in defense and getting rebounds (wait, isn’t that what Yousef Taha already is?). That’s not a bad thing, considering he definitely won’t be an offensive threat anytime soon. If he isn’t careful, though, he might be another James Walkvist. Sure second rounder right here.

4. Justin Chua (Ateneo de Manila University)
Chua, for me, is one of the sleepers in this draft. He blossomed with Blackwater in the D-League and in that 2010 UAAP season, which was the bridge between the Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Greg Slaughter eras. Clearly, Chua is a polished product. He can operate in the low block, he can shoot from midrange, and he is physical enough to bump and grind in the shaded area. If given enough playing time, he can be a really great back-up big, and, maybe after a couple of seasons, he might even be a star center. I am not so sure if he will ever have the footwork of Jervy Cruz or the range of Beau Belga, but his unique skill-set will definitely land him a long-term deal in the pros. Right now, I see his career trajectory to mirror that of Doug Kramer’s (the floor would be Chua mirroring Jason Deutchman’s rookie season). Not too shabby. Late first round or early second for Chua.

3. Raymond Almazan (Collegio de San Juan de Letran)
Almazan is a sure fire double-double machine in the NCAA, and he can potentially have the same kind of production in the PBA. He’s long, he’s mobile, and he has a good nose for the ball. That’s a recipe for someone who will, AT THE VERY LEAST, be another Rafi Reavis, but, should Almazan polish his post game or produce a consistent midrange shot, then we could be looking at a potential baby-Marlou Aquino. Almazan doesn’t have the Skyscraper’s armpit-scoop-shot, but he looks to be more athletic. In fact, I project that Almazan, should he secure a starting role, will be a top 10 rebounder next season. That’s a huge IF, though, even if, as projected, he goes to Rain or Shine at number three.

2. Ian Sangalang (San Sebastian College)
Ah maybe the best big man of the bunch in terms of pure skill. Sangalang normed about 19 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal in his last NCAA season, and that’s all we really need to know. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s mobile, and he is pretty much money from fifteen feet in. In my mind, Sangalang will thrive in practically any PBA system. He can produce with or without plays being run for him, and he does so many other things that make coaches salivate. He can run the floor with the likes of Mark Barroca or LA Tenorio (hint hint!), but he can also be an effective back-to-the-basket player (have you seen him spin to the hole? Man!). In short, he’s a lock. I don’t know if he will be an All-Star early in his career, but he will surely be a solid inside operator. I’m thinking potential Dennis Espino-ish numbers pretty soon.

1. Greg Slaughter (Ateneo de Manila University)
Greg is the best local seven-footer who will ever play in the PBA, until a better one comes along (duh!). I mean, look at his competition – EJ Feihl. Already, I think he is better than Feihl, and, though I know many pundits will contest this, I won’t be surprised if he becomes a solid big man mid-first conference. I think his offense is his weak point, but, again, he doesn’t have to be a double-digit scorer right off the bat to get minutes. His imposing presence will alter shots, his size will be an asset on the boards, and, quite frankly, he’s spry enough to run past the likes of Samigue Eman or Magi King Sison on the break. And, man, his work ethic is something else. You get one look at him at practice and you know he wants to succeed. You know he won’t be content resting on his laurels. This kid will compete and, coupled with his height, that will be enough – at least for season one. In all honesty, I think Sangalang is a better fit for the fast-paced Ginebra style of play, but, hey, when will the Kings next find a skilled seven-footer available in the PBA Draft? Ginebra will be better served taking Sangalang with the top pick, but I see them taking Greg because the potential is just too crazy to throw out the window.

Consolation Centers:
JP Erram (Ateneo de Manila University)
I think Erram could have been part of that top five had he not torn his ACL and, consequently, underperformed in his final playing year in the UAAP. His stock fell considerably, and now he is going to have to scrape to find a long-term spot in the PBA. Heck, the guy he was being compared to before – Noy Baclao – is already a journeyman (even if he’s been ping-ponged by just two teams) after just three seasons. #NotAGoodSign

John Usita (Shoreline Community College)
Usita is an interesting character, or mysterious, take your pick. He first popped into the radar of local hoop nuts in 2011 when Mattew Manotoc of EMBM (Espiritu-Manotoc Basketball Management) “discovered” him. He’s advertised as a banger, but the only thing we’re really certain of is his age – he’s already 28 years old. And, well, he has many similarities with Asi Taulava, who also came into the league in his late 20s (Asi was a 26-year old rookie if I’m not mistaken). Like The Rock, Usita hails from one of the pacific islands (Hawaii to be exact), is a man-mountain at 6’8 and 255 pounds, and is dotted with tattoos. Again, nobody knows much about him. For all we know, he MIGHT be as good as Asi (though something tells me we would already have known if he had the potential), or he could be… Yeye Bonel? Gian Chiu?

Vince Tinte (University of Sto. Tomas)
Tinte was UST’s center-that-never-was. There’s not much to be written about him, too, but, hey, no team can sleep on the kind of height this kid has (6’7). He’s a project, for sure, but with the right team and the right coach (add huge helping of patience perhaps), who knows?

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6 Comment

puking ina naman ang hirap magbasketball


another stupid writer/blogger/reporter... Isaac Holstein played with the Bigchill Superchargers in the Dleague not with blackwater sports. HOW THE HELL DID YOU GRADUATE?


Thanks for the eloquent and level-headed reply! Correction has been made!


Haters gonna hate enzo! It's too bad he is named after your favorite player of all time. I really like Raymond Almazan for RoS (my fave team). I just hope he doesn't end up like another defensive monster from the NCAA with the same beanpole frame as him. Jason Ballesteros